Words by Hosna
'I don’t believe in talent; I don’t believe that shit at all.'
My favourite artist Francis Bacon once said 'You want accuracy but not representation...in painting you have to know what you do, not how, when you do it.' Meeting young Melbourne artist Angus McGeehan, I was reminded of Bacon's technical approach to art. It also seemed quite fitting, with Bacon being one of McGeehan's favourite artists. Despite the two of them having quite rigid, differing views on painting approaches/styles, their art is organic and free. McGeehan's, in particular, touches upon a moving and brooding sensibility.
It was a regular Wednesday and I was an hour late to the interview . Irrespectively, as I met McGeehan, he was calm, sipping beer and ready to talk. He didn't grow up in a traditionally creative family, in fact not starting painting until year 12, but his mother being a recreational painter 'always pushed [him] to go towards it.’
'Growing up I wanted to do design; like graphic or industrial design, and then well I got to a point where I liked all sorts of things, so I thought I might as well stick to fine art.' It's funny how a mother’s intuition is almost always right. McGeehan certainly has something where he not only likes everything, but masters everything in painting too. Adopting a distinctive drip style inspired by street art and graffiti, there is a 'grimey and grotesque dimension to the work.'
'One of my painting teachers, outside of school, saw that I had a few paintings like that and said I should sort of turn that more into an aesthetic.' As a result, when looking at one of McGeehan's works, the audience is immediately engrossed and unsettled by the dark manipulation of the subject. It is at this exact moment when McGeehan touches upon the viewers vulnerable emotions, where you see parallels and that he knows 'what he is doing.'
The 'it' that McGeehan moves towards, fuelling his creative integrity, is inspired by the everyday, conscious or not.
'I really don’t know. I can be inspired by things I see online or even if I have a dream, I’ll collect thoughts. It can be obscure or not, and the painting won’t generally be a direct interpretation, but it can give me an idea on what to start on. '
Once he sits down, the work unfolds. McGeehan does not plan his work, because it is not the 'how' or 'when' but knowing what do to do.
'If I’ve sat down, I’ve actually said I'm gonna do a piece, I won’t move. Even if it’s shit I’ll have to make something because then I just get frustrated.'
His technicality is steered by passion, and his passion has shaped an individuality. McGeehan does not 'believe in talent...at all…I believe you can have an eye for it, but if you don’t practise...The old time classic painters, they aren’t just good. They do it every day.' 'You can be really good, but you need exposure. Networking is the most important thing, that just the way the world works. I don’t wanna sound like a w**ker but living in a capitalist society if you wanna make money you gotta work.’
And McGeehan paints every day. Not only out of necessity for school but because he wants to. Because he wants to get better. Because as his artistic development grows so does his passion.
'Slap some paint,do another layer, repeat.'
There is a surreal beauty to McGeehan’s work. When viewing it you are immediately unsettled by the application of paint. A perturbed sentiment is literally drizzled onto the page. However, McGeehan’s combination of colours eases and soothes the ambiguity in the object. He is able to confront the audience as well as reassure them. Besides the colours and application, there is a passiveness in the paintings. They are quiet and delicately revealing the inner beauty of emotional depth.
McGeehan's process is constant. Almost every night I’ll see a new Instagram story of a new painting. Another instance of sitting himself down, focusing and making something. Besides this personal drive, McGeehan is nurtured in a motivating environment. Studying first year Fine Arts at RMIT plus the guidance of his family propels his artistic ability.
'There’s no parallels to that sort of [university] engagement, when there’s a teacher actually talking about the things you’re interested in. It’s quite strange at first, being surrounded by people who are there for the same reason you are but it’s great. So great.' 'I also do a painting class every week with my mum, which I really enjoy. My teacher Graeme Drendel is an amazing painter.'
It is clear the McGeehan springs off the skill and passion of others, sensitive to fluctuating motivations and moods. And continues to indirectly heighten his own talent. McGeehan is a student. And I think he always will be. Because each day he listens, learns and develops that beautiful and dark talent.
Describe your aesthetic in 3 words?
Surreal, calm, fluid.
What made you realise how important art was?
There wasn’t really one significant moment or experience that made me realise art was important to me, but a longer process which manifested into a better understanding by the time I was a teenager and allowed me to grasp its value in my life.
James Jean, Utagawa kuniyoshi, Hokusai, Mike Giant, Fintan Magee, Bezt & Sainer
Do you think art is lacks appreciation? or is under estimated?
No, I think most people appreciate art to a certain degree even if they don’t practice, read and talk about it. I can see why art is often underestimated by people outside of the community because of its sometimes elitist or sheltered attitude.
What themes do you believe your art explores?
I enjoy exploring lots of themes in the my work but I’m typically engaged with beauty, violence, nostalgia and banality.
If you had only 1 CD in the car on repeat, what would it be?
A Moon Shaped Pool by Radiohead or Rodeo by Travis Scott
Do you untie your shoes before taking them off?
Yes, when I’m sober